Oh, the lengths scammers will go to.
I received an email recently about a photo used on my site. Specifically, it was about a photo used in this article. The photo in question is this one, a photo from Wikimedia Commons which can freely be used, with proper attribution. The email came from the photographer, asking for a link back to his site. Here is the email, in full:
Hi I hope you are the right person on this.,
I hope you’re doing well.
I am very pleased to see that my creative work in https://commons.wikimedia.org/
wiki/File:Running_Man_Kyle_ Cassidy.jpg is being used on this article found on your site: .http://ericsanjuan.com/get- more-exercise-day-to-day-with- these-stunning-hacks/.
It means a lot to me that you selected my work. I prefer that you keep the image on as I can see it provides value to your followers.
Simple image credit to my site is all I ask. It motivates me to continue uploading images that contribute to informative content like yours.
Can you support my humble work? Stay safe. 🙂
Green Cap Marketing
And a screenshot of the email for good measure.
As an author myself, I take proper credits seriously. Though I did link back to the Wikimedia Commons page, it was not a clear credit as outlined under the CCA-SA 3.0 license, so I was happy to correct that oversight. And linking back to the photographer’s site, too? I told them sure, I’m happy to do it, send over the link you’d like me to use.
I took it at face value that this was the photographer because of how the photo is credited on Wikimedia (as of this writing, it’s in the process of being corrected):
Hmmm. Caption says “A. Sturdivant,” Summary says Kyle Cassidy. That DID stick out to me, but I took “author” to mean that was the person who uploaded the photo, not the photographer himself.
In no time, they send a reply with the link info for me, but what he sent back was a website that had nothing to do with him or the photo, and the photo attribution they asked for was for a BUSINESS, not the photographer. It was a link affiliate site, a commercial site that earns money through clicks. What the hell?
This didn’t seem right, so I decided to dig deeper.
Aldwin’s signature says he works for Green Cap Marketing, which claims to recover fees for photographers. (I won’t link to the site, but you can find it easily enough.) And I can’t find any record of him being a photographer other than that one caption on Wikimedia Commons, either. In fact, I can’t find any record of him at ALL. The guy is basically a ghost. And Green Cap Marketing? The phone number on their website is either incomplete or fake.
I DID, however, find that Kyle Cassidy is a professional photographer in Philly. The photo above is in New York, so they’re close. Figured it was plausible it was the same guy. The guy has a website, a book, and many other photo credits.
So I reached out to Kyle Cassidy asking him if he’s affiliated with Green Cap Marketing in any way and if the email was legit, or if they are using his name as part of a scam to get links to their clients’ affiliate sites (or what appear to be client sites). He got back to me in moments: It IS his photo — he even provided details about it only he would know (and later on Twitter posted behind the scenes images) — and he has absolutely no affiliation with Aldwin Sturdivant, Green Cap Marketing, or the site they wanted me to link to.
In other words, it was apparently a scam to try and get me to link to a link affiliate site, i.e. a site that gets paid when someone clicks their links to Amazon or other retailers.
And it gets better. Kyle reached out to Wiki editors, who discovered that this wasn’t an isolated incident. It turns out this person or agency has been changing MANY photo credits on the site, likely to run this scam on other site owners. “Aldwin Sturdivant” or A Sturdivant” is being listed on the photo credits of a bunch of images, presumably in order to trick site owners into linking to his/their affiliate sites. They managed to track down several linked accounts, too, all doing the same thing. It appears to be relatively widespread. Some of that is summarized in this Wiki entry.
In the meantime, here’s Kyle’s Twitter thread on the issue, with people digging up even more juicy info.
Thankfully I trusted my nose and checked into it.
And now when people Google “Aldwin Sturdivant” and “Green Cap Marketing,” this is what they’ll see. That Aldwin Sturdivant and Green Cap Marketing are scammers.
Have a nice day, “Aldwin.”